All it takes is an email address and three or four minutes to join 800 million other people on Facebook, but how do you break free of the social-media giant?

The site doesn't make it quick or easy for you (its privacy policy is nearly 6,000 words) and the default option is to "deactivate" your account, not "delete" it.

To deactivate your account select "account settings", then click "security settings" before opting to "deactivate your account". Facebook then devilishly confronts you with pictures of your friends and reminds you how much you will miss them if you dare to leave. Hold your nerve. Your deactivated account is no longer visible to other users but all your data remain on Facebook's servers.

Weak-willed users will prefer deactivation to deletion as it allows you to change your mind and reactivate your account.

Deletion is more drastic – and final. So if you've reached the end of your tether with endless pokes or have become concerned about privacy issues, you'll need to submit a request.

The company hides this function so you'll need to visit the Facebook Help Centre (click on the downwards arrow on the top-right of the website) and search for "delete account". Alternatively, we've created this link (

Within two weeks, Facebook insists every trace of your profile will be gone from the site. But be warned, if you crack and to try to log in during this two-week window you risk returning your profile to live status. And some data (copies of photos for example) will remain on Facebook servers for "technical reasons". But the site says this is "inaccessible" to other users.

And even after you have permanently deleted your profile you will still have a presence on the website if any of your former Facebook friends continue to upload pictures of you. So be warned, that embarrassing picture you don't want your boss to see may still find its way online.